Tide Mill Institute

The 2010 conference took place on November 13, 2010.

Sixth Annual Tide Mill Conference: “Heritage and Sustainability”

The Tide Mill Institute hosted its 6th Annual Tide Mill Conference at the Old Schwamb Mill in Arlington, Massachusetts, on Saturday, November 13, 2010. Although it is not a tide mill, its operations are similar to those of a tide mill in all respects except for the source of the water to fill the mill pond. A tour and working demonstration of the 19th-century wood-working mill followed the formal portion of the conference. Check out the mill at http://www.oldschwambmill.org/

After a welcome message from Earl Taylor and an introduction by Bud Warren to the topic of the day, presentations included:

Richard A. Duffy

The Old Schwamb Mill in Context: Historical Water Power in Arlington. Arlington's diverse water-power history encompassed water mills on Mill Brook and tide mills on the Mystic River. The Old Schwamb Mill, site of the Tide Mill Institute’s 6th Conference, is a working museum that began wood-turning operations in 1864 and today continues to produce oval and circular picture frames in a excellently preserved Victorian industrial setting. It was a contemporary of the wood-turning tide mill owned by Benjamin F. Woods, which specialized in parlor brackets and baby carriages. That mill operated from 1851 to 1872, when the Massachusetts Board of Harbor Commissioners ordered removal of its mill dam as an obstacle to boating navigation. The Woods mill burned in 1891, and the Mystic River in Arlington ceased to be a tideway after 1910, so the most significant vestige of Arlington's tide-mill days is J. T. Trowbridge's 1882 novel, "The Tinkham Brothers' Tide-Mill," which is based on real events on the Mystic River. Arlington's 17th-century history of grist- and fulling-mills powered by the tides has been re-discovered in recent years. The concept of the Mystic River as a source of water power has now taken its rightful place alongside the better-known Mill Brook, whose many mill sites included the Welch and Griffiths saw manufactory (first established in 1830 at a tide mill in Boston's Back Bay), Schouler's calico printing establishment, and Samuel A. Fowle's extensive milling operations in grinding for paints, dyes, and drugs, and Fowle's "Arlington Wheat Meal," marketed widely as a late 19th-century "health food."

Glen Marquis

21st Century Helical Turbines at Eastport, Maine. http://www.oceanrenewablepower.com/home.htm

Glen Marquis, ORPC (Ocean Renewable Power Company) Project Development Manager, shared information about the company’s tidal power systems and development activities. ORPC has demonstrated the viability of its technology and is actively developing commercial-scale tidal and river energy projects in Maine and Alaska. ORPC plans to build and install its first grid-connected tidal unit in Maine in 2011.

ORPC’s tidal power technology doesn’t use dams or impoundments. Its Turbine Generator Unit uses slowly rotating foils to power a permanent magnet generator at its center. Made with composite materials that won’t corrode and a gearless design that doesn’t use lubricants it produces absolutely no emissions.

Chuck Hartman

The Wessaweskeag Tide Mill, Thomaston, Maine. History is a little murky about tide mills in the early years of the Wesawesskeag River, but there is evidence of 7 mills constructed at two locations. Chuck Hartman spoke about them chronologically. Almost 100 years before the 1795 map was printed, Frenchman, Thomas Lefebvre of Quebec acquired a grant from the King of France for land between the Weskeag and Georges Rivers. He was here as early as 1700 and constructed most likely the very first tide-mill. In May 1704 the Lefebvres were captured by the famous Indian fighter Col. Benjamin Church, their mill and property burned, and were imprisoned in Boston, suspected of being French spies.

Lieut. John Mathews and Elisha Snow were at the Weskeag in 1767 with timber rights from the Massachusetts Court and built a saw mill perhaps in the same area where Lefebvre built. Lieut. Joseph Coombs later built a second tide mill next to Snow and jointly they built a grist mill. William Rowell built the first tide saw-mill, and his son Rice Rowell built the next tide saw-mill in 1813, perhaps at the same site where his father built a mill. Joseph & Almond Newhall, and Capt. Joshua Bartlett obtained a grant in 1845 from the State of Maine to build a dam across the tide waters of the Weskeag River.

They erected their modern tide-mill below the dam in 1846. The width of the dam is 320 ft and holds back a pond of 200 acres 2 miles in length. In 1867 the mill was under the ownership of Weskeag Mill Company. The mill consisted of a circular saw, up/down saw, grist mill, stave & heading mill, planning machine, shingle machine, and granite polishing mill. The machinery was of good construction, and the iron wheels were of the Union Patent. It was dismantled in the 1920’s. 

Susan Langley

Tide Mills of the Chesapeake. Dr. Langley represented the SPOOM-Mid-Atlantic Chapter and provided a synopsis of that group's activities and projects. In addition she noted that the Vice-president, Robert McLaughlin, has an article on tide mills in the current Old Mill News (Fall 2010) and invited everyone to check out the past and current newsletters at the web site (http://spoommidatlantic.org/)

and to attend upcoming meetings. She noted the previous sources of tide mill information in the region and provided additional information that has been coming to light along with some satellite images and historic maps.

In 2005 at the first Tide Mill Institute conference, she had expressed an interest in editing a volume on tide mills for the East Coast but had received limited response. She is willing to revisit this if there is renewed interest.

Richard Duffy

Basque Country Tide Mills: Recent Explorations. The northern coast of Spain has undergone a revival of interest in tide mills, with interpretation of archeological ruins and reconstruction in various locations. The Molino de Cerroja and the Molino de Jado in the eastern part of the province of Cantabria are two recent examples that were discussed as attractions for visitors to the growing resort communities near the Santona marshlands.

After a brief review of tide mill sites and interpretation in Bayonne in French Basque Country, attention was focused on the last functioning tide mill of the 33 that have been inventoried in the Spanish Basque provinces: Portu Errota. This mill began documented operation in 1683 and features a turbine waterwheel carved from a single piece of sandstone. The mill ceased operation in 1953, but upon being purchased for a home by the family of the present owners in 1965, the the idled mill machinery was restored to enable to mill to function with tidal power on a demonstration basis.

The Spanish Government has asserted a claim to take the Portu Errota mill by eminent domain, by means of a 1988 law that it is applying to private property owners on the coastlines--retroactively and without compensation. A vigorous legal process is underway at the European Union Courts of Justice at Strasbourg to reverse this situation. At stake is the loss of a historical site that retains many layers of history from different periods of use, with the potential risk of being converted into an interpretive re-construction. At present, the Spanish authorities are forbidding necessary repairs and the physical structure of the mill (building and dam) is degrading. It is hoped that a compromise for continued private stewardship of this historical resource, with appropriate arrangements for public access can emerge as a viable solution.

Open Forum: Alex Gorlov and Igor Palley discussed some of the uses of the Gorlov Helical Turbine, its "fish friendliness" in open water and especially its adaptation to a spherical shape to be used in large water pipes, where the flow of water can be used to generate power.